Webster’s school board denies busing agreement with Summit school

State likely to allow regardless

If it’s a bordering school seeking to come into the district to pick up students, there’s no problem with members of the Webster Area School Board to allow that action, but collectively they don’t feel the same about such a request from non-bordering schools.

A request by the Summit School District for a busing agreement was denied in a four-one vote by the Webster Area School Board Aug. 8 with board member Larry Jirava saying it was not a bordering district and for that rationale, did not believe it should be approved.

“And I stand behind that rationale,” said fellow board member Joel Shoemaker. “I understand that our vote really doesn’t matter here.”

According to Superintendent Jim Block, it’s an annual requirement from the state, but he said it really is just a formality that’s been put in place.

“If we really don’t agree with something or another district doesn’t agree with how we’re doing things, it goes to the Department of Ed and the Secretary of Education will make the decision,” he said.

While Block said denying a busing agreement is within the board’s right, he said it will most likely result in the state education department allowing it anyway.

“We should be buttering them up, though. With CTE, maybe we’ll attract more,” board member Martin Looyenga said.

“Still not a bordering district,” Jirava said.

In a roll call vote, board member Aaron Gaikowski was the only member to vote in favor of the Summit busing agreement with all other members voting no.

“So we have a four-one vote. I’m sure you’ll get your ‘nasty gram’ promptly and the matter will be resolved,” board president Tom Sannes said. “Thank you to the Department of Education, State of South Dakota, for–”

“–for putting us in this position,” Shoemaker said, finishing the sentence. Sannes said he felt it was one thing to agree to neighboring districts. Shoemaker added, “But when you’re jumping over one district to come in to another district, I just... That’s one of the problems with this open enrollment. It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

“Matter of principle,” Sannes agreed.

Block remarked, “I will say this, and I’m not defending the Department of Education or throwing them under the bus – what a pun – but it’s legislation that we’re following. So the Department of Ed is kind of in the same boat we’re in. They’ve got to figure out how to get kids to the schools they want to attend.”

Shoemaker commented that the legislators should visit with the school boards on the topic.

Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved busing agreements with Waubay, Langford and Groton.

In other news:

  • Some of the new staff members and teachers were introduced to the board with Sannes telling each of them that the board welcomes conversations from each of them if ever there is an issue or a suggestion they have.
  • The board approved declaring several items as surplus, including: 87 Chromebooks, 40 speaker systems, 30 laptops, 28 headphones, 14 desktops, several monitors, two splitter boxes, one digital display, “and a partridge in a pear tree,” Sannes supplemented after reading off the list, which drew a laugh from the room.
  • Contracts for new para staff Jessica Washenberger and Athena Snaza were approved along with junior high football coach Matt Baumgarn, football cheer coach Kaylen Pool, year book advisor Chelsea Larson as well as approving Candace Bloom as a non-certified teacher for art.
  • A series of changes to the high school student handbook were approved. A link to the full text can be found on the school’s website.
  • Conflict disclosures were made for Block and Looyenga, both of whose wives are educators at the school; and Sannes, in the event that he has a professional client conflict as an attorney.
  • Kirsten Lebert was the winning bidder for a piece of surplus property in Wheatland Township. Hers was the top bid, at $10,000. The second bid received was from Dustin Davis at $5,550.
  • Jalayni Zakrzewski was approved as a longterm sub although she is uncertified. According to Block, they will need to utilize her at least twice throughout this school year. The State Department of Education will need to approve Zakrzewski since she will be subbing for longer than the normal state-allowed 45 consecutive days for non-certified teachers.
  • A brief discussion was held regarding the potential of co-oping with another school for a sport like girls softball. According to Block, he was contacted by the Florence superintendent to see if Webster would ever consider such a move. New athletic director Nathan Bloom said it was too early to tell how that sport will go.
  • Block updated the board on where things stand with the construction project.

The next  school board meeting is Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

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